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Attorneys argue about which Dover mayor gets to control lawsuits

| June 3, 2022
Dover Law Director Doug O'Meara argues in court while city attorney Dolores Garcia, attorney Drew Piersall, and suspended Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen listen.

NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (June 3, 2022) – Dover Interim Mayor Shane Gunnoe and suspended Mayor Richard Homrighausen were in the same room Thursday morning.

They avoided each other in Common Pleas Court Judge Mike Ernest’s courtroom as attorneys for the city and Homrighausen argued about whether Gunnoe could have four lawsuits filed by Homrighausen against the city dismissed.

Ernest said he will issue a ruling soon on whether the cases will continue.

The cases all relate to efforts by Homrighausen to stop the city from employing three workers he fired in December.

Gunnoe and city attorney Dolores Garcia say since Homrighausen is suspended, Gunnoe should be able to step in and drop the cases.

Dover Interim Mayor Shane Gunnoe listens to court proceedings Thursday.

“I think in all four cases, the way that Mr. Gunnoe becomes the plaintiff is the fact that he assumes all powers, rights, and responsibilities associated with the mayor’s office,” Garcia said.

Homrighausen’s attorney Drew Piersall says he still retains the title and salary of the mayor during his suspension.

“While it’s true he doesn’t possess the power responsibilities and rights under (O.R.C.) 3.16, he’s still the mayor,” Piersall said, “but the case doesn’t go away simply because he’s no longer serving in that appointing authority capacity for a temporary period, which we’ll see what happens in September.”

Homrighausen is set to go on trial in September on charges of theft in office, among 15 counts.

Who has the power?

Homrighausen briefly explained why he is suing the city over a settlement agreement with those terminated employees, although the city’s attorneys objected to his comments saying they didn’t pertain to the motions to dismiss.

“The settlement agreement admits liability on my behalf without my approval, and I’m now trying to correct it,” Homrighausen said.

Ernest suggested holding the cases until Homrighausen’s criminal case is resolved. He said if Homrighausen is found guilty of a felony, he will be removed from office.

Piersall did not object, but the city’s attorney did.

Garcia argued allowing the cases to continue allows Homrighausen to maintain some control over the mayor’s office and the employees he fired who are now back at work. They have all provided testimony in the investigations of Homrighausen.

“To be able to continue this campaign of intimidation of material witnesses using the court system, that’s what the suspension statute is designed to prevent, and that’s why it makes sense that all powers, rights, duties, and responsibilities would be taken out of Mr. Homrighausen’s hands and put in Interim Mayor Shane Gunnoe’s hands,” she said.

Ernest said he is not clear on how Gunnoe can step in as the plaintiff in place of Homrighausen, since Homrighausen still holds the title and salary of mayor.

“Mr. Homrighausen is very much alive. He has not resigned,” Ernest said. “Are you saying he ceases to hold public office?”

Ernest said he will issue a ruling soon on whether the cases will continue.

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